View Full Version : SM Symptoms?

11th December 2009, 06:13 PM
Hi all,

I've been doing a lot of reading on SM and am afraid that my 10-month old Bentley may have it. All of his symptoms are typical SM symptoms but they are also typical doggy behavior. Individually, I would think nothing of it. But with all the symptoms together and knowing the high incidence of it in cavs, it makes me believe the worst. My husband thinks that I am overreacting and jumping to conclusions because overall, he is a happy and playful puppy that doesn't seem to be in obvious pain. I guess I just need some advice from experienced Cavalier owners to see whether I should pursue this with our vet, or just keep watching him to see if there are any more symptoms or if his current symptoms worsen.

His first symptom is his ear/neck scratching. I think he's been doing it for months now, but it seems that in the last several weeks or couple months, it's been getting more frequent and intense. He scratches most in the morning and at night, and some times will take breaks while playing to scratch. The scratching can be pretty intense (similar to some of the videos I've seen) and the only way to stop him is to physically interfere, he won't respond to me calling him. He does this several times each day, though the sessions don't last for more than 10-15 seconds.

His second symptom is face rubbing. He would put one side of his face down and walk in a semi-circle, then do the other side of his face. He would repeat this several times. It's not the same as when my other Cav does it, usually after a good meal and you could almost see his pleasure when he face rubs. I don't see pleasure from Bentley, but then again, I don't see pain either. He would also do this several times a day.

Those are the two main symptoms. Other symptoms I've noticed is that whenever we reach out to pet his head, he would duck away from us. This doesn't always happens, but it happens enough for us to notice it. Another symptom is his chewing/biting his hind legs. His chewing would cause his fur to become wet and causes little mats on his legs that I would have to cut out. This happens at least once a day. He also hates putting on his step-in harness and collar. At first we thought he was just lazy and didn't want to go for a walk. But once we get out the door, he is okay. Whenever I put his collar on him, he would tense up and almost flinch. But it could also be that he doesn't like the sound of the click that the buckle makes.

Sorry for the long post. I just don't know if I am overreacting (I tend to be overprotective of my dogs) or if there is reason to believe that there could be something more to it and make an appointment with my vet. :confused: Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!

11th December 2009, 06:45 PM
I'm sorry you are in a position of feeling concern. :(

I think you need to talk to a vet soon. Scratching of that intensity is simply not normal -- you need to start the process of eliminating all the likely potential causes and then, if nothing else explains it, consider a referral to a neurologist. It would be important to make sure this isn't SM -- or to confirm it is -- given Bentley's young age as this will give you the most options (or alternatively, relieve your concerns). But something is causing that really aggressive scratching -- you are right to feel that isn't normal and needs to be checked further.

Also< Cathy T is in your area and might be able to recommend a vet familiar with SM as she has a diagnosed SM cavalier. :flwr:

Cathy T
11th December 2009, 08:01 PM
Hey An - sorry to hear you are concerned about Bentley. I had the great pleasure of hanging out with An, Charlie and Bentley to do a home visit for An to do some fostering. Bentley is just the cutest little thing. Such a little bundle of energy. An, I will e-mail you some info.

11th December 2009, 08:03 PM
I agree Annie. I would much rather be safe than sorry. My Abbey was misdiagnosed for many years and I knew nothing of this awful disease. I don't think you can be too careful.

Karen and Ruby
11th December 2009, 08:06 PM
As Karlin said im sorry you are seeing some cause for concern with your pup!
My partner was exactly the same when I said there was something wrong with Ruby and also said I was over reacting and not to be so silly. I didnt listen to him though and glad I didnt.
Yes 10 months is young but its certainly not uncommon to find dogs of this age with symptoms.
Charlie was 1 on tuesday and I will be getting him scanned in February as I also have some cause for concern as he paws' at his head all the time. I thought its was teething for all of a couple of months but having gone through it all once already i know better than to wait and wait. The head pawing isnt his only symptom.

If I were you knowing what we all know about the high incidence in the breed I would get a scan done for peace of mind but I am completely covered with insurances so dont have to worry about price as it is very pricey unless you go to a low cost scanning day.

My fingers are crossed that you get good news!

11th December 2009, 08:07 PM
The symptoms your are witnessing are all to familiar to me. Ollie had all those symptoms and eventually many more. Dogs do not show pain, usually, they are very stoic animals and do not know the difference between what is normal and what they are experiencing. We like to give them human qualities but they don't really think past the moment. Ex: We can be gone five minutes or five hours and get the same response. Where as people know the difference. Your dog is probably trying to get rid of the discomfort in whatever way he can, face rubbing, scratching and the fact that he seems to not hear you is probably the truth. You can only concentrate on one thing at a time. I know Ollie did that more and more and he was a trained service dog/threapy. He always listened no matter what he was doing. But pain is something beyond their control. I know that there will many out there who disagree with what I'm going to say but...if I had it to do over I would NOT have had the surgery on Ollie. If medication does not help his pain then you will have to be the one who eventually is the caretaker of your beloved dog and does the right thing for him or her. Dogs don't think, well tomorrow might be better, or I know my owner is going to find a way to stop this pain. They live in the moment. We are the ones who will miss them, cry for them, mourn their loss. Let your dog live his or her life as a dog, doing the things dogs do. When they feel the pain they will stop but at least they are living the life of a dog and not kept coddled away from activity. I apologize to those who do not feel this way, It is just my opinion. good luck to you

11th December 2009, 08:16 PM
Just to stress again: try not to worry about what it might be til you start working through the possibilities. You may find any one of several reasons. Don't worry that it is SM til you get to the point where there's little more to look into, and you need to explore that possibility. :flwr:

Cathy T
11th December 2009, 10:12 PM
From the short amount of time I spent with Bentley he appeared to be a happy frisky little puppy. I do know that I didn't spend nearly enough time with him to recognize an issue.

Thanks for mentioning that Karlin. I don't want An to worry unnecessarily and have sent her a message with some info.

12th December 2009, 04:47 AM
Thank you everyone for your replies and concern. With your support, I will contact the vet that Cathy recommended and see what she has to say. I don't feel like I am overreacting so much anymore. I showed my husband this thread and I think he's accepting the fact that there may be a problem. He's probably just in denial that there could be something wrong. I will try and not worry too much until we see the vet. This probably won't happen until after the holidays though since we are getting ready to travel out of town next week. The dogs will be flying with us for the first time. That in itself will be a completely different issue. :rolleyes:

Thanks again everyone and I will keep you all updated.

12th December 2009, 08:33 AM
If his collar bothers him, I would put him into a soft harness which will be more comfortable for him.

12th December 2009, 10:54 AM
I second karlins advice, dont worry until you know the facts, and only a mri scan will tell you for sure whether there is any sm. I wa convinced Harley had sm his syptoms were quite different to yours though, he actually does have cm although they thought his spinal cord was wider than it should be which would indicate some fluid beginning to enter it but no srinxs which is what they call sm. I would ask your vet to refer to a neurologist they will determine wether to perform a scan, they will examine him to determine if there is a problem, they wont scan otherwise. di

13th December 2009, 11:15 PM

Let us know what the vet says - I'm taking my Chesney in soon for the same reasons. He is 2 years old now, and his weird "neurotic" behaviors have now become so frantic to the point I am sure this is what he has. :( Ugh. I'm really hoping to see fleas, to be honest. ;)

23rd December 2009, 12:43 AM
We had our vet appointment this morning to discuss Bentley's symptoms. But before I go into that, I want to mention that since the last time I posted, Bentley has started to air scratch. What I saw as a new behavior/symptom didn't quite match up to what I envisioned air scratching to be, based on descriptions I've read. So I emailed Cathy T and asked for her opinion, describing what he was doing--which reminded me of the cartoon character Thumper. It looked like he was thumping one of his hind legs. Cathy thought it was air scratching and recommended that I try to video his actions to show the vet. I was able to get it on video last week. Here are the links to some of his symptoms that I was able to capture for those that are curious and for those that wonder what air scratching may look like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyHjphoNSCY This one is of his ear/neck scratching. Sorry the video is so dark. It was early morning and I didn't have time to go turn on the light as I wanted to make sure I got it on video. This is one of his longer sessions and of moderate intensity (relative to his other sessions).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=styOw5Zptw4 This one is of his face rubbing and air scratching.

I showed the vet the video clips and she confirmed that the thumping action was indeed air scratching. She checked for neck pain and he did show discomfort when she put pressure on his neck. Upon examination, she did note that inside his left ear (the side he scratches more often and also the side that he air scratches) was not normal looking. She said it should be smooth but instead it is rough like sand paper and is discolored (little brown spots). She said without the ear looking abnormal, she would have recommended a scan. But since the ear doesn't look normal, it could be the cause for his scratching. So we are starting with the conservative approach. She prescribed Tresaderm drops for 3 weeks and will recheck his ears. We will be monitoring his symptoms to see if it makes any difference. If there is no change in his symptoms, then she will probably recommend a scan at that point. She/we are still holding onto some hope that his ear is what is causing the symptoms. But deep down, after Cathy and the vet confirmed that he is now air scratching, I know that it is something a lot more serious. However, we will still keep our fingers crossed that his symptoms will diminish over the next 3 weeks.

Cathy T
23rd December 2009, 03:51 PM
Oh gosh An. I'm so sorry. When you described him "Thumper" like behavior I kind of felt that was air scratching. The videos are hard to watch. I would like to have Karlin, Nicki and Margaret (and others with SM dogs) to view them and give you their opinions. I do know you are in great hands with Nancy (the vet). She is able to pick up on things other vets miss (a friend's Cavalier with mouth ulcers missed by other vet visits). We'll stay in touch. But let's see what others with more experience have to say.

23rd December 2009, 04:19 PM
Hi An:

I am really sorry you are having these worries, which is especially hard I think with a young dog that is still a puppy. But also because of that, I think it is important to address this quickly as right now is when you are likely to have the most options, and even days or weeks can make a difference.

I'd ask for a referral immediately to a neurologist. That behaviour is very possible for painful SM and the thumping behaviour is typical of a lot of SM dogs -- it is in SM dogs, a form of air scratching, a kind of involuntary response. My Leo can do that sometimes. I just would be very very surprised to think thais would be caused by an ear infection. It could potentially be PSOM but even so it would seem to me to have to be be pretty extreme PSOM symptoms and that would be picked up on MRI as well. Given the neck sensitivity and other things your vet found, I'd not want to wait more than a week to get him to neurologist if possible -- I really would not leave that kind of behaviour for three weeks. Maybe she would have a neurologist give an opinion on whether you should set an appointment, based on her findings and with showing a neurologist those videos?

All I can say is my most affected dog does nothing like that kind of behaviour and he has a wide syrinx (however he is on gabapentin and cimetidine) -- I'd think those were pretty strong signs of discomfort and pain. I'd want to get painkillers as/if needed, to address his discomfort right away and an initial clinical exam from a good neurologist should enable you to move forward on that front and get the advice on whether an MRI is needed and takes things from there.

In short I would be asking for an immediate appointment -- I would not consider waiting for three weeks given the video signs.

23rd December 2009, 06:13 PM
My cocker spaniel exhibits exactly the same behaviour as the 2nd video. In fact he just did it 5 minutes ago. He rubs his face on the ground with his back leg thumping. Not really sure why he does it but think its linked to his ears or allergies.

Karen and Ruby
23rd December 2009, 08:25 PM
Hi Annie

Im sorry about your little puppy. Its heart wrenching watching those videos as its like watching my own.
Ruby is diagnosed with SM and exhibited all of the symptoms in your videos and more until we found the right medications and Charlie my little one is also a worry and paws at his head and scratches for minutes at a time.
Im going to get Charlie scanned in Feb however I do give him Metacam at the momment until I can get an appointment after Xmas.
To be honest it doesnt make a whole lot of difference to him but I wouldnt self medicate with Rubys meds under any circumstances as for them to have taken her symptoms Completely away they must be very strong!!

I second Karlins thoughts and would get your pup seen to right away.

Im sorry again that you are having to go through this its such a hard thing to have to contemplate with such a young pup x

23rd December 2009, 09:05 PM
Thank you for all your replies. I've read and reread Karlin's post many times with a heavy heart. I'm not sure how you go about requesting a referral to a neurologist and I believe the vet I saw will be out of the office until next week but I will try contacting them and see what they say.

It just breaks my heart to think that he is in a lot more pain and that his symptoms are much more serious than I thought them to be. He does have his good and bad days, and the videos were shot on one of his bad days. So that gives me a little comfort to know that not all his days are quite that bad. He is such a happy and sweet little guy that it's hard to believe that he could be enduring so much pain.

23rd December 2009, 09:18 PM
It is hard to know what he is experiencing but something on one side is really, really bothering him. It may be discomfort and not pain per se -- but he really seems to be bothered on one side. I'd want to get a clinical assessment from a specialist. If it is PSOM then that is far easier to treat.

Is he on anything at all for pain/discomfort? I'd see if your vets can prescribe metacam or similar, just a basic vet painkiller, according to the starting recommendations from Clare Rusbridge. Her treatment algorithm is here:


See if that helps the facerubbing etc. I don't think a week makes much difference but I wouldn't want to wait three weeks plus the added time to schedule the appointment, and I'd at least want to see if some meds might stop or improve the behaviour you see. Maybe just ask for a referral when your vet gets back? Cathy just went through this herself and may have some suggestions. You might see if they'd let you try furosemide, omeprazole or cimetidine.

Margaret C
23rd December 2009, 10:18 PM
I am so sorry to say this, but having seen your two videos I think you have reason to be concerned.

The symptoms that Bentley is showing are very suggestive of SM and it probably would be wise, for his sake, to have him checked out by a neurologist. I personally would not want to wait three weeks unless the ear drops have a rapid and permanent effect.

I do hope there is some other explanation for the obvious irritation Bentley is feeling.

Best wishes

24th December 2009, 01:32 PM
i think you've been given some good advice by others on here. If it were my dog i would want a scan asap to confirm either way. Both my girls scratch like that and face rub - however that said they have both been scanned and are both clear - it is hard to establish he difference between SM and normal dog behaviour. A scan is the only way of knowing what your dealing with :flwr: